In addition to nonfiction, which includes my book Anatomy of a Trial, maintaining three blogs and my extensive journalism career, I write stories for children. After relocating to Wisconsin more than a dozen years ago, I joined the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, and have been learning that art and craft, as well as the frustrations, barriers and vagaries that are endemic in the children’s publishing world. Recently, another member of the SCBWI Wisconsin chapter, Andrea Skyberg, invited me to participate in a Writing Process Blog Tour.
Andrea is unique in the kiddy lit world. She’s not only an author and illustrator (oh, how I envy writers who can professionally illustrate their books!), so is her husband Michael Greer, and together they operate the Wooden Nickel Press, which publishes picture books and illustrated middle grade novels.
As an artist-educator, Andrea develops collaborations with children to create her picture books. She’s worked with more than 15,000 students as a visiting author and artist-in-residence, creating and sharing her books CommuniTree (2013), Squircle (2013), and Snickeyfritz (2009). Her books have been honored with the Mom’s Choice Award Gold & Silver medals, a Moonbeam Award, and a Next Generation Indie Book Finalist Award.
Andrea is not just an SCBWI member, she is the Area Representative for SE Wisconsin. She runs the weekly blog feature, Tuesday Tours, which showcases artists’ and writers’ studios. For more information please visit Andrea at andreaskyberg.com.
Here’s a peek at Andrea’s picture book, Squircle:
Squircle follows a little girl named Evie who tries to catch a squirrel and ends up wandering through the forest on a magical adventure. Along the way, she unexpectedly meets a circle of woodland friends who inspire her to live in the moment, listen to her inner voice, and go with the flow of life. Using these tools to overcome negative emotions, such as anger, fear, and loneliness, Evie finds her joyful spirit. She realizes that she’s never alone, and in fact, she’s connected to everything around her, even the squirrel. With artwork created out of fabrics from around the world, appliquéd through hand stitching and machine embroidery, Squircle, takes readers on a journey through the woods to explain how we’re all interconnected and all part of the Squircle!
Participating in this blog tour involves answering four questions about my writing process. So here they are, with my answers:
1. What are you working on?
With a number of picture books in the mix, most still in need of more revising and all in the pre-published phase, a YA historical fiction near completion and a MG novel and sequel calling from my archives, I sometimes think I missed my calling to be a juggler. The more I learn about my writing colleagues, though, the more I realize how common it is for writers to juggle several projects at once.
2. How does your work differ from others of its genre?
Perhaps the way my PB work most differs from others—at least those who are published—is that my stories don’t fall into any particular niche. I just write them because I love doing it. My YA historical fiction is based on an event I learned about in recent years and wanted to write about for young people. I was fortunate to have met the subject of the story and interview him a couple of years before he died, which I think offered a distinctive perspective from other authors of historical fiction set more than 80 years ago. During my research, I discovered and was shocked to learn that I have a personal connection to the story’s geographic setting.
3. Why do you write what you do?
First, I love writing. I can’t imagine not writing. I’ve always done it. Much of it has been as a journalist, but even during those years I wrote short stories and children’s stories. I also love reading, I’ve read books since I was little, going back to Frog and Toad, Uncle Wiggly, Little Bear, fairy tales, and so on. I write PB-genre stories when I’m seized with an idea that tickles my fancy and hope to end up with something delightful. The YA historical fiction is a story I feel compelled to write. Although the actual event occurred more than 80 years ago, it is at least as, if not more, relevant today and significant for today’s young people to know.
4. How does your writing process work?
Slowly, painfully, but with hope springing eternal. I have always written in early morning hours. I wrote a novel in longhand sitting in my parked car waiting for the gym to open where I worked out each morning before heading to my office in downtown Los Angeles. I tapped out much of the first draft of my adult nonfiction Anatomy of a Trial on my laptop in a hotel room during the months I worked as an international court-media consultant in Jakarta, Indonesia.
I still wake up early and hit the computer, first thing, seven days a week. I do a couple of things writers are told not to do; I revise as I write, and I don’t sit tight for hours on end. I read back several pages or a chapter or two to get my head back into the story and the characters, often revising as I read. As for sitting for hours, I stay put until my hinder-end hurts. So I take a few minutes’ break every hour or two. Something else that slows me down is research. Details and timelines constantly pop up that send me to the Internet or printouts I’ve made at the library. I get so lost in it, suddenly, my writing time is up or life intrudes.
The most significant aspect of my writing since joining SCBWI in 2005 is the feedback I get from my PB critique group and from a non-SCBWI writers group two non-children’s writers and I formed three years ago who are assisting me with my YA project.
So is there any hope that my first picture book effort, Magnificent Millicent, subsequently renamed Molly’s Magnificent Egg, will see print – other than the actual book I created along with illustrations such as this?
Any children’s writers who would like for me to plug you and your work on my blog, are interested in answering these four questions on their blog and invite three other authors to participate in the tour, please let me know and we’ll do it!